Welcoming Strangers To Bali
--by gipsysoul, posted Dec 2, 2011
I have been living in Ubud in Bali for the last 9 months, and am really loving it. One of the many things I enjoy about it is that I get to travel without going anywhere, because friends regularly fly in from different parts of the world to visit. When I happen to be the one traveling places, I love being welcomed at the airport, and so I try to do the same for friends whenever I can.
Two days ago, I headed to the airport to pick up a friend who was flying in from Paris to visit for three weeks. I don't own a car so I hired the services of my friend, Wayan Yoga, a really sweet Balinese driver. Wayan is also my informal Indonesian tutor, so I always look forward to riding with him. We had a wonderful chat on our way to the airport about what we do when we feel a little blue.
At 10 pm, we arrived at the airport. Our timing was nearly perfect. My friend walked through the International Arrival exit door a few minutes after we settled in front of it. I had met him in Bali earlier this year but hadn't seen him in 7 months, so it was wonderful to be together again. We hugged, and talked for a few minutes, and just as we were getting ready to head to the car, a young stranger with a very sweet face and a very thick accent approached us.
"Excuse me, Could you please help me? Do you happen to know where I could catch a bus?" he asked.
"A bus?" I replied. I had never seen any around the airport, and that didn't sound like a fun way to try to go anywhere at this hour of the night, especially after a long plane ride. I asked him where he was going.
So without thinking, I just replied: "Oh, in that case, you could just come with us. That's where we are headed now."
He was totally taken aback for a split second and then broke into a big smile.
"Oh, great!" he responded, and introduced himself as "Victor, from Ukraine."
I realized a second too late that I had just lost the opportunity for some private catch up time with my friend on the way back, but made my peace with that very quickly. We actually had 3 weeks ahead of us, so there was really no rush. I then asked Victor where his luggage was, and he turned around to show me the tiny little backpack on his back, half the size of a regular carry-on. I was really impressed with his capacity to travel light.
So, the four of us then headed toward the parking lot, just as I was about to cross the street, I heard another voice behind me say, "Excuse me!"
I turned around. A very friendly-looking man broke into an even bigger smile than Victor's and said "Excuse me, do you live here?"
"Could you please give me some advice? My girlfriend and I are going to Ubud, and we are wondering whether if it's safe to just catch one of the taxis out here, or whether we should go to the official booths and make arrangements there."
I caught myself, thinking Well, I could invite them too! But then a second thought told me that this would be a bit too many of us.
I resisted my initial impulse and just answered, "Well, the standard taxi price to Ubud is 200,000 rupiahs, so as long as the driver off the curb offers you that kind of deal, I'd say you are fine to go with them."
But this just didn't feel right. So I let go of my concerns and added, "We are actually going to Ubud, so you could perhaps just come along, if there is enough space in the car."
I then hailed Wayan who had already crossed the street and asked if there was room for six people total. He gave me a very confident yes back. And that's how Zuzu and his girlfriend, both from France, ended up joining our crew.
As synchronicity would have it, there was just enough space in Wayan's big car for all of us. I was a bit concerned that my friend would feel a little crowded but discovered that he was completely delighted about the whole thing. He, too, likes to take in strangers. In fact, he had just hosted a young Swedish friend of mine in Paris for a few days earlier in the month, even though he had never met him.
The ride back to Ubud was wonderfully fun and lively, and I ended up feeling really grateful for this spontaneous opportunity to welcome a few strangers-turned-friends to Bali!